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Car prices top $30,000 on average
Sticker prices set record in December. What buyers actually paid went up only slightly.
January 22, 2004: 2:48 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The average sticker price of a new auto purchased in December crossed $30,000 for the first time, according to price tracker, but sticker shock isn't keeping buyers from getting the vehicles they want.

The average manufacturer's suggested retail price of cars and light trucks bought last month was $30,481, up 2 percent from the average sticker price in November and 4.6 percent higher than a year earlier.

Ford Motor Company
DaimlerChrysler AG
Auto Incentives

Strong incentives and normal negotiation kept the average actual selling price well below that. In December it was $26,077, about 5 percent above the year-ago transaction price. Both average transaction prices are about 14 percent below the manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP).

Buyers at General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group, the North American unit of DaimlerChrysler, paid an average of 18.8 percent below MSRP in December, versus 18.4 percent below a year earlier.

Japanese automakers had even more improvement, as buyers of those brands paid 7.5 percent below MSRP in December compared to 8.4 percent a year earlier.

The Korean automakers ended up giving a lot on price, as their buyers were at 15.2 percent below sticker price in December compared to only 9.4 percent a year earlier. Buyers of European models got the smallest break on sticker price, only 4.6 percent in December, compared to 4.8 percent a year earlier.

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Edmunds' senior analyst Jesse Torak said the higher prices are due mostly to buyers using incentives to get more vehicle rather than cut the amount paid.

"The high incentives are enabling people to buy either more expensive cars or buy the same car and add on more options," he said.

The Edmunds' New Vehicle Price Index, which compares transaction prices for comparably equipped vehicles, shows less of an increase than either the MSRP or the transaction price data.

The price index is up 2.8 percent from a year earlier after a year of declines -- the December 2002 index was 2.1 percent below where it stood in January of that year.  Top of page

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